Reporting Bobby Bancroft
Of the eleven players that saw action at some point for George Mason against Hofstra on Wednesday night, nobody logged less time than Paris Bennett.
Bennett, however, made the most of his time in the eyes of the one man that matters the most – Coach Paul Hewitt.
Hewitt made a point to refer to the reserve forward as the ‘most important player’ even though the numbers don’t exactly back that statement up.
Bennett – who hadn’t even seen the court in the last three games – didn’t attempt a shot, didn’t score a point, didn’t grab a rebound, but it didn’t matter as George Mason defeated Hofstra 72-62 at the Patriot Center to remain in a first place-tie with Drexel and VCU in the Colonial Athletic Association Standings.
“He came in and changed the game,” Coach Hewitt said about Bennett’s impact on the win without filling up the box score.
“He executed a perfect dribble hand off that got Sherrod [Wright] an easy basket. You could just see our offense change.”
Hewitt wasn’t pleased at halftime and with good reason as the Patriots (20-6, 12-2) trailed Hofstra 32-31. It was the second time in two weeks that the Patriots were behind to lowly Hofstra (8-18, 2-12) by a point at the break.
“I told Paris at halftime ‘just be ready, I can’t promise you anything but you are probably going to get the call’,” said Coach Hewitt about his mid-game adjustments.
“We gave him a shot and he turned the game around and we finally got some flow offensively. We continued to execute the rest of the way.”
Bennett immediately came into the game and got a block before assisting on a Vaughn Gray (eight points) three-pointer that gave the Patriots the lead at 41-39 with 14 minutes remaining.
The Patriots would keep the lead for the next nine minutes but they weren’t able to pull away even though Hofstra has just one road win all season.
Wright, who scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half, responded once Hofstra regained the lead by nailing a three-pointer out of a timeout with 5:17 remaining to put the Patriots up 57-56. This time the lead would stick.
The game was still in the balance as George Mason led 64-60 before a highlight worthy play between Wright and fellow reserve guard Corey Edwards. Edwards found Wright for an alley-oop inbounds play.
Wright was fouled and made the ensuing free throw for a decisive 67-60 advantate. The Patriots shot 65 percent in the second half.
“Me and Corey are always looking for that,” Wright said about his connection with Edwards on the dunk that finally gave the 4,343 in attendance a reason to feel comfortable about the lead.
Edwards had a career-high seven assists in just 16 minute after struggling to hold onto the ball against ODU last Saturday (six turnovers).
Ryan Pearson led the Patriots with 16 points while Mike Morrison added 10 points to round out the double figure scorers for George Mason.
Up Next: George Mason goes back on the road to take on UNC-Wilmington (9-15, 5-9). The Patriots beat the Seahawks 67-61 earlier this season at the Patriot Center.